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Fate of plant pathogens during production of biogas as biofuel
Environmental and economic reasons motivate focused research on biofuel production. The new research programme MicroDrivE – Microbially Derived Energy, offers a series of MSc projects within bio-preservation, enzymatic pre-treatments, ethanol fermentation, bioprocessing of byproducts, biogas production and fertility effects of bioresidues. The projects are supervised by scientists from the Departments of Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and Chemistry at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala. MicroDrivE cooperates with a number of biotech and bioenergy companies. For information on the other MSc projects use the search function ”Fritext” to search for MicroDrive.
Background and goal
Biogas, a renewable energy source possible to used as fuel for vehicles or for the production of electricity or heat, can be produced by microbial degradation of a large variety of different organic materials. Today, in Sweden, biogas in constructed biogas plants is mainly produced from sewage sludge, slaughter house waste, manure and food and feed waste from municipals and from industries. However, the larger part of biogas in the future is believed to be of agricultural source, including also different types of energy crops. During biogas production of different organic materials a nutrient rich residual is also produced. This residual, also named biomanure or digestate, can be used as a fertilizing agent on arable soil. By application of this digestate on soil a recirculation of nutrients is achieved, thereby supporting a sustainable development. For the digestate to be accepted as a fertilizing agent a good quality is required. The nutrient content and the concentrations of heavy metals as well as the concentration of certain pathogenic organisms are secured by a voluntary certification protocol. This protocol is updated on a regular basis in line with new knowledge arising.
This exam work will investigate some questions concerning biogas production from energy crops and quality of digestates. Studies included in the project are;
A. Survival of plant pathogens during production of biogas from grain and sugar beats.
This study will evaluate the risk of spreading plant pathogens during application of digestates produced from biogas plants using energy crops as substate. Today some information is available concerning other types of pathogenic microorganisms, but the knowledgebase concerning plant pathogens is presently very limited.
B. Investigation of the biogas potential from grain and sugar beats of “low” quality.
When energy crops are used for biogas production the substrate has to be storied during a long period of time. For some crops this will not be a problem but for others a decomposition process likely will occur. The question to be investigated is if this decomposition process will influence the biogas potential and the quality of the produced digestate.
Methods to be used during the project include mainly microbiological cultivation techniques, set-up and monitoring small scale biogas processes (batch) and analytical methods including gaschromatography.
We are looking for a student within the microbiology and biotechnology area interested in future technologies for biofuel production and environmental concerns.
For information on the Department of Microbiology, SLU, visit our Web-site: http://www.mikrob.slu.se
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